Point Blank (John Boorman, 1967)

Lee Marvin as Walker in Point Blank is less a character and more an idea. Left for dead in an Alcatraz prison cell by his best friend, Mal Reese (John Vernon), Walker stoically pursues those who betrayed him. But he’s not after the wife who left him or even Reese himself. No, Walker is after the lump sum of $93, 000- money that he stole with Reese prior to being backstabbed.  What follows is an existential vigilante quest that poses more questions than answers. It’s the way in which Walker goes about his quest that raises an eyebrow – he’s not concerned with his cheating wife, nor does he really care for inflicting vengeance on the man who betrayed him, instead, it’s all about money.

I subscribe to the notion that Walker, is in fact, a walking corpse – that Point Blank essentially follows a dead man who can only rest in peace after he has made amends with the world. It’s an interesting concept to combine such existential ideas into the world of a film noir, but ultimately, I can’t say it was an enlightening experience. The formal elements of Point Blank are impeccable, from the exquisite locales and set designs. But the stoicism on display becomes overwhelmingly dire. In the face of so much chaos and violence, the notion that one singular individual could shrug death is too nihilistic for me to comprehend.  Walker living out a feverish dream offers an outlet of moral acceptance on my part, but even then, it’s not entirely clear if that’s Boorman’s intended narrative direction.

Point Blank interestingly mashes sexuality with scenes of violence to compelling results. When Walker is informed on the whereabouts of his ex-wife and Reese, he walks with intense conviction – the sounds of his shoes echoes through a narrow corridor. The scenes are intercut with his ex-wife going through her daily routine, unaware of the force that is about to be unleashed upon her. It’s an example of virtuoso film editing blended with a titular central performance. But even if I admit I got some thrills out of the sexy, unabashed violence on display, I can’t same there’s an emotional presence that extends beyond what I have just watched. Point Blank has ideas and a concept, both of which are tied together by a strong visual sense, but its lack of a permeating emotional element is oddly, and disappointingly, puzzling.

On a sidenote, I find it rather interesting that Lee Marvin’s role is deemed as “badass” my many online film critics – is the depiction of a callous and coldhearted individual really something to be applauded? Marvin gives a good performance in the absence of emotion, but the man is clearly an unconventional villain, and not the hero (or even anti-hero) that he’s made out to be.

Rating: 6/10